Advantages and Disadvantages of Concentrating Collectors
(1) No Fuel Cost: Solar thermal concentrator does not require any fuel like most other sources of renewable energy. This is a huge advantages over other fossil fuels whose cost are increasing at drastic rate every year. Electricity prices are increasing by rapidly in more parts of the world much faster than general inflation. Price shocks due to high fuel costs are a big risk with fossil fuel energy these days.
(2) Predictable 24/7 Power: Solar thermal energy can generate power 24hours a day. This is made possible as solar thermal power plants store the energy in the form of molten salt etc. Other forms of Renewable energy like solar PV and wind energy are intermittent in nature.
(3) No Polution and Global Warning Effects: Solar thermal energy does not cause pollution which is one of the biggest advantages. Note there are costs associate with equipment used to build transport solar thermal energy equipment.
(4) Using existing industrial base: Solar thermal energy uses equipment like solar thermal mirror and turbines which is made in large scale at low cost by existing industrial base and require no major changes in equipment and materials unlike new technologies such as GIGs panels.
(5) Concentrated solar power production have been shown to create more permanent job and stimulate the economy as compared to its natural gas counterparts.
(6) The heat delivered by concentrating solar collectors is available at much higher temperature. Higher temperatures allow the use of power generation equipment to produce both electricity and heat.
(7) Large economy of scale effects are observed when moving towards large concentrating systems, rendering such technology very cost effective (compared with PV for example)
(1) High Costs: Solar thermal energy cost atleat 3.5Euro/watt and has not declined sola much in the last 3-4 years. However these costs are too high as solar PV already costs 2.5Euro/watt and even on a conservative basis will have it costs reduced by 5% in the next 10 years making it attain half the cost of thermal technology by 2020.
(2) Future Technology has a probability of marking CSP obsolete: Solar energy has become a hot bed of innovation with daily news of some new breakthrough in material and process in PV technology. “Oerlikon” has come out with a radial new a-si technology while GIGs players are touting increased efficiencies. Chinese solar companies have captured large chunks of the solar market through low cost leadership while number of Global Heavyweight like POSCO, Samsung, Hyundai, Sharp, GE, TSMC, promise to further decrease these costs.
(3) Water Issue: Solar thermal plant use lot of water which is major problem in desert areas. Using non-water cooling raises the cost of CSP projects too much. While using sea water has been proposed it remains to be seen If it possible to implement this solution as this would imply building plants very near the coastline.
(4) Ecological and Cultural Issue: This usage of massive arrays of Mirrors is noted to heavily impact the Desert wildlife endangering the endangered species. California has already seen massive fight on this issue with project Developers Curtailing the size of their plants and spending money to move wildlife (applicable only to CSP)
(5) Since concentrators can focus only direct solar radiation, this performance is poor on cloudy days.
(6) Tracking mechanisms must be used to move the collectors during the day to keep then focused on the sun.
(7) Maintaince and construction costs of the system is high.
(8) Concentrators are only practical in areas of high direct insolation, such as arid and desert areas.
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